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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The bucolic campus of St. Bonaventure University sits just outside of Olean, New York, straddling the Western New York/Pennsylvania border. And almost in the exact center of the campus sits the Reilly Center, the social nerve center of the college. Opened in the mid 1960s, the building serves as a social center, houses athletic offices, a natatorium, retail food and bookstore outlets, conference space, and most importantly, the 5,500 seat basketball arena that houses the St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s and women’s programs.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The venue starts with a low score but quickly rockets up on further review. Why? On each sideline concourse is a concession stand, and the offerings are pretty meager - popcorn, soft pretzel, soda, coffee, bottled water. Zweigles offers hot dogs and Italian sausage (Zweigles is a regional meat processing company, pretty good stuff). But head back towards the north entrance next to the ticket office, and there one will find the RC Café, which is primarily a cafeteria style installation, and open on game nights for ticketed fans. The menu explodes - angus cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, philly cheesesteaks, personal pan pizza, a sub shop, fries, flavored coffees. The venue is easy to miss, but worth the trouble to ferret out.
The Reilly Center bookstore also doubles as a fan merchandise shop, with a pretty good selection of Bonnies apparel and souvenirs. They are open on game nights (as is the bookstore).
A decade ago, ESPN's Jay Bilas ranked the Reilly Center as one of the most difficult and hostile places to play in for a visiting team. We saw little of it. Perhaps it was the lack of a true student section with the school on a late winter break. Nonetheless, the family atmosphere, lots of kids, made for a pretty good event, and being the last regular season home game, the young teens in attendance stormed the court following a thrilling double overtime win by the Bonnies.
The seating bowl itself and corridors are definitely "old school". The corridors feel like a 70s high school building, showcases and displays in an old time warp, and the seating area feature a 4 sided dot matrix scoreboard, canvas banner ads on one wall, and a very nicely appointed display of championship banners , retied numbers, and signature coaches draped from the rafters.
It's a small campus, but the intimacy lends itself nicely towards a fulfilled college campus experience. The nearby city of Olean is boiler plate small town New York State in all its fading glory. I-86, the "Southern Tier" expressway, straddles the region and can take you westward to Salamanca, home of the glitzy Seneca Salamanca Casino. Recommended eateries closeby include the Rathskellar right on campus, serving pre and post game drinks and tavern food. Off campus, the Burton, located in nearby Allegany, is a favorite meeting spot for Bona alumni, and go try the Burton Burger. Randy's Up The River, also in Allegany, is your prototypical sports bar with plenty of Bona memorabilia. JD's Smokin' Grill in Olean comes highly recommended as the best barbecue joint in the area.
This program has a long and storied history, the greatest glory coming in 1970, when the team advanced to the NCAA men's basketball Final Four, on the wings of local phenom and future NBA great Bob Lanier. In 2000, the team found its way to The Dance, only to lose their first round match in a bitter last minute defeat. Since then, it's been rough going, but this year they have turned the program around, and actually had a very good season in the highly competitive Atlantic 10 Conference. On the women's side, their squad landed in the top 25 and an at large bid to March Madness. Their fan base of support is solid, passionate, and they travel well with the team.
As said earlier, the Reilly Center sits literally in the center of campus. Ample parking lots dot the campus, and parking is free. It's first come first serve. Being off the beaten path near a small town, public transportation is non existent.
Are we limited to just 5 stars? The Atlantic 10 is not some backwater third tier league. It is a mid major conference with some pretty darn good basketball competition. Yet tickets here are priced at a ridiculously low $10 and $12. At the concession stands, the Zweigles hots are $2.25 and $2.75, the popcorn a buck, those Philly steaks or angus burgers we mentioned can be combo'd with fries and a soda pop for about $6. Parking is free. Even the bookstore was offering 25% off on select Bona merchandise. Total, total bargain. Pack the station wagon with the kids and enjoy a cheap night out.
One extra point for the great value you get when attending a St. Bonaventure Bonnies game at Reilly Center. The school has put itself in a great position to pack the house every night.
Another extra point for the great history that you feel at a game at the Reilly Center. Included in that history is the 1970 Final Four banner.
St. Bonaventure University doesn't roll off the tongue much when one thinks of great national bseketball programs. But it is one that is steeped in history. And those historic ties reach all the way to nearby Buffalo, where a generation ago they competed in "The Little 3" against regional rivals Canisius and Niagara. Old timers remember those great Saturday nights at the old Memorial Auditorium when packed houses would be the norm to watch these rivals in action. Those memories, the guys that coached here, and the great players that wore the uniform, none greater than Bob Lanier, still frame the profile that is Bonnies basketball to this day.
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1 E Main St
Allegany, NY 14706
3767 S Nine Mile Rd
Allegany, NY 14706
1 E Main St
Allegany, NY 14706